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Altaf Tyrewala

Altaf Tyrewala is the author of Ministry of Hurt Sentiments, among other books. He lives in Mumbai.

The importance of having a Plan B

t's been a while since I met an employed person who was content with her job and assured of having it for years to come. Full-time jobs, meant to envelope employees in ever-lasting bubbles of security, are in fact making people terrifyingly aware of how contingent their careers are on unknowable and unforeseeable factors. If it isn't the fear of becoming redundant, there is the possibility of one's work-group/department/company folding up. "Disrupt or die" is today's corporate war-cry. CEOs routinely shake up their organisations, often without reason, to keep people on their toes; if a few bodies are lost in the bargain, well, that's just collateral damage in an attempt to keep a company lean and mean.

Despite enough anecdotal evidence about the unreliability of employment, why does India's salaried class continue to work like nothing's gonna change their world? Where, in other words, is Plan B?

Savings and investments don't count. People who save and invest are least likely to live off their wealth when the times are hard. Plan B is not a safety net. Plan B is that other thing you can quickly start doing to hold on to your sanity and maintain some semblance of a lifestyle when Plan A has handed you the pink slip.

For most people, coping with Plan A is exhausting enough. Modern corporations have realized that a one-dimensional, borderline-autistic workforce can be easily bullied into working long, thankless hours. With nothing else but work to define their lives, often all people do is work, much to the glee of chief operations officers.

Not having a Plan B is not entirely a person's fault. Lazy, uncultured parenting and a dull-footed educational system have led to generations of individuals with an unimaginative and utilitarian approach to life. Work is to earn money. Recreation is passive entertainment. Life's the proverbial she-dog and then you...

evising a Plan B takes work. More work after work? Tedious, yes, but one's future depends on it. Old skills have to be honed, existing skills nurtured and new skills learned. Plan B is not a mild interest or extra-curricular past-time. Plan B is a full-bodied commitment to a parallel trade, craft or skill, performed with a degree of professionalism which one can rightfully demand to be compensated for. Putting Plan B in place can almost feel like a second job, but without the financial duress of needing one.

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Devising a Plan B takes work. More work after work? Tedious, yes, but one’s future depends on it.

A well-meaning organisation ought to encourage its employees to have a Plan B (as long as it doesn't involve the breaking of laws). A chartered accountant who also does event management. A JAVA programmer who also designs children's toys. An advertising professional who doubles up as a professional hike guide. There are enough checks and balances in the modern work place, including the all-important appraisal, to ensure that employees don't skimp on their professional responsibilities.

An employee with a Plan B is unlikely to be overly consumed by Plan A. Reassured by her ability to achieve professional fulfillment outside of corporate employment, such an employee will have clearly marked boundaries; in most cases she will work because she wants to, not because she has to. Such a self-respecting and willing approach to work may come as a shock to a system that has become used to treating employees like obdurate cows who need to be whipped and threatened to be kept in line.

Perhaps the most vital benefit of having a Plan B, both to the employee and her organisation, are the ways in which a person can be enriched by it. A mind stimulated by life outside of work is bound to remain in overdrive at work as well. Apart from the interesting water-cooler conversations they bring to the workplace, employees with a Plan B are more likely to be lateral thinkers with the ability to work with a diverse range of people in a variety of situations. Not to mention the extra cash their Plan Bs help to rake in.

So should you cancel your vacation, sell off your TV, and get cracking on Plan B? I say go for it. Your employer shouldn't be the only one benefiting from your workaholic, masochistic moronity. Your supervisor is bound to catch on in time. By then, you'll be too exhausted and sleep-deprived to care about Plan A or B.

 
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